- What our economy is experiencing is not a worker shortage, it’s a wage shortage.
- Our economic recovery is stalling because wages have been frozen for a decade.
- It’s time we give America’s tipped workers the pay increase they deserve. Our countries financial future relies on it.
- Brian is a member of the Patriotic Millionaires and the co-founder of The Delta Fund.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
As the US transitions into the recovery phase of the pandemic, tipped workers across the country are leveraging their strength in numbers and sending a clear message to the restaurant industry that they should be paid what they deserve.
The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers is a direct legacy of slavery that has long contributed to some of the highest rates of sexual harassment across any industry. It’s time policymakers take action to ensure one fair wage nationwide.
On May 25, I joined restaurant workers in downtown San Francisco as part of a nationwide wage strike to demand an end to the sub-minimum wage and a full, fair living wage nationwide. We engaged in civil disobedience to call attention to the ongoing injustice that tipped minimum wage workers are forced to endure every day, and were arrested by SFPD as a result.
As a wealthy white man, my experience being arrested was likely more comfortable than the conditions many of our nation’s tipped workers face every day. 70% of women working as servers, bartenders, or other roles in the food services industry say they’ve dealt with sexual harassment from their employers, coworkers or customers. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these issues and made working conditions worse for vulnerable employees.
Now, with our country facing an unprecedented hiring shortage, especially in the restaurant industry, it is slowing our economic recovery. Hard working Americans simply don’t want to risk their lives for poverty wages any longer. It’s important that allies in California, which is already a One Fair Wage state – a state that requires all employers to pay the full minimum wage with fair, non-discriminatory tips on top – with a stronger restaurant industry to prove it, join this fight.
I am a successful business leader, a former executive, and now an investor in old and new businesses across the United States, so I know what a good investment looks like. I’ve done the research and seen for myself how ending the sub-minimum wage and enacting a full, fair minimum wage with tips on top is not only good for restaurant workers, but for owners and customers as well. Pre-pandemic, the seven existing One Fair Wage states have higher restaurant industry growth and even higher rates of tipping. Even now, though all restaurants have struggled mightily in the face of COVID-19 shutdowns, restaurants in One Fair Wage states have on average seen less decline in their number of open businesses in the hospitality industry.
But don’t take it from me. Take it from the heads of the corporate restaurant chains that have long been fighting against raising wages. On call after call, these CEOs have not only said that a higher minimum wage for all workers doesn’t hurt their business, they’ve also admitted that it’s actually better for business.
The CFO of Denny’s, for instance, said on an investor call that California raising its minimum wage has helped the chain outperform there versus the rest of the country. Understandably, that’s led to a shareholder revolt against the company’s continued lobbying against a $15 minimum wage. If companies like Denny’s admit that One Fair Wage is good for their bottom line, they’re violating their fiduciary duty by spending millions of dollars lobbying against fair wage laws.
That’s why our protest in San Francisco started outside Denny’s downtown. We need to hold them accountable for their hypocrisy and the low-wages they’re still paying our brothers and sisters across the country.
The bottom line is that the federal government has already bailed out restaurant owners to the tune of over $28 billion over the last year and a half. It’s time for the federal government to give restaurant workers the same attention, and mandate that they must be paid what they deserve.
The House has acted. Now, we need the Senate to pass the full Raise the Wage Act, which would end subminimum wages for tipped workers and make a $15 minimum wage the law of the land.
As a business executive and investor, I know that what’s good for people is good for business. We’re a consumer-driven economy, and putting more money in the hands of workers is essential to driving demand. On the flip side, smart business leaders know that inequality is bad for the economy and bad for business. With the pandemic driving more profits and government bailouts into the hands of the ownership class while impoverishing and bankrupting workers, we’re all going to end up worse off unless a drastic change is made.
Restaurants don’t have a worker shortage, they have a wage shortage. That’s why I stood in solidarity with restaurant workers and was arrested alongside them in their nationwide wage strike. It’s time we demand better for everyone. Call your representatives and let our leaders know that we demand a just and thriving economy, and therefore we demand giving all workers a living wage.